Tough Love

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Wired For Sound

Well, 2005's heading off to that Great Dumper in the Sky. You know the place - it's where Rachel Stevens songs go to die.

But anyway, before we toddle off to kiss goodbye to the Noughtie's halfway point amid the company of square-jawed and icy-hearted German boys, here's our thorough, unadulterated and 100% non-biased round-up of the year's best music.

And no, we're not being paid to endorse any of these products (it's not Myspace, you know). But if you'd like to offer, answers on a postcard to good ol' Tough Love Towers.

Happy 2006 to all who can be bothered to read this gubbins.

Goldfrapp - Supernature
After an all-conquering summer, the Goldfrapp backlash seems to be kicking in already, with accusations that this third album is a retrograde step compared to Black Cherry and Felt Mountain. Balls. A nakedly commercial album, yes, but one that shows lesser, lazier pop acts how it should be done. Every song a gem precision-designed to sell thousands without ever losing its cool or sense of fun.

Roisin Murphy – Ruby Blue
Never having been much of a fan of Moloko, who – a few singles aside – always seemed a bit self-consciously weird, I didn’t expect to like this much. I was wrong. With collaborator Matthew Herbert on board, Murphy has turned out an album of skittish, left-leaning electro jazz which charms and impresses but never intimidates. It was marketed stupidly as a pop album at the time and seems to have sunk without trace. Let’s hope she picks a smarter label next time.

The Arcade Fire - Funeral

Forget the muso bullshit about this being a ‘post-rock affirmation of life in the face of death’, this album’s nowhere near as boring as the praise it generates. Listen instead to the spine-tingling Bjork song Bjork never wrote that is In The Back Seat; the way Tunnels managed to sound like a gospel choir covering a Talking Heads song with a gypsy band in the background. An exceptional album.

Girls Aloud – Chemistry
Perhaps the group’s swansong, but certainly a calling card for Xenomania as songwriters at the top of their game. This is a ‘manufactured’ pop album that sounds like it’s been assembled by artists rather than clueless marketers. Chemistry fizzes with energy, ambition, innovation and imagination: a concept album on what it is to be a young woman cast adrift in Generation Heat. A witty, sassy pop album that pushes, but never strains, the boundaries of pop’s vocabulary.

Antony And The Johnsons – I Am A Bird Now
Antony Hegarty’s rapid rise from the fringes of the avant-garde to near on universal adoration has been one of 2005’s most unexpected and pleasurable developments. A Julie Burchill-lookalike borrowing Nina Simone’s voice may not sound like a pop phenomenon, but that reckons without the fragile, yearning beauty of songs like Fistful Of Love and Hope There’s Someone. Music that tastes of rich red wine: dark, heady and intoxicating.

Madonna – Confessions Of A Dancefloor
Why is Madonna like Mark Twain? Because rumours of her demise are greatly exaggerated. She may have got a tabloid battering for everything else: her side projects, religion, marriage – but still she managed to pull another accomplished, effortless comeback out the bag. An album of unreconstructed disco hits, it takes Madonna back to her roots and many thousands more back on to the dance floor.

Saint Etienne - Tales From Turnpike House
Another in 2005’s growing list of notable concept albums, Tales From Turnpike House takes Pete, Bob and Sarah’s trademark indie loser pop sound into lusher territory. Beach Boys harmonies; lyrics about middle-aged disappointment rather than young love; pop music that lifts and punches you at the same time. Take out the exceptionally bad David Essex collaboration and you have a near perfect album for a summer day.

Patrick Wolf – Wind In The Wires
Wunderkind Wolf wowed the emerging nu-folk scene back in 2003 with his drum n bass influenced folk album Lycanthropy. Back in February 2005 with Wind In The Wires a more mature, less tricksy album the comparisons to Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush began to bear fruit. Songs like Teignmouth and Ghost Song suggest an elemental, wilful artist determined to please himself and drag us along with him.

Seth Lakeman – Kitty Jay
A spiritual cousin to Patrick Wolf, albeit one who lives on a diet of real ale rather than absinthe. Lakeman’s album turned out to be another surprise seller after being listed for The Mercury Music Prize. Kitty Jay is a spirited album of brittle, beautiful folk songs evoking the landscape of Lakeman’s home in Dartmoor.

Jose Gonzalez – Veneer
Expect to be sick of this album by the end of 2006 – but in a good way. Gonzalez’s album of wispy yet never insubstantial vocals and spidery flamenco guitar is a thing of loveliness. Crosses sounds like sunbeams slanting across a cathedral; his cover of The Knife’s Heartbeat turns an android love song into a bittersweet ballad. David Gray: start planning your retirement now.

Rufus Wainwright - Want Two

The second part of Wainwright’s Want project brought us a darker more difficult album than the first, but one that rewarded repeat listening. It may have nothing as poppy as I Don’t Know What It Is but it has The Art Teacher: a sparse, angular song that is quite possibly the best he’s written yet.

Kate Bush – Aerial
It was always going to be good to have her back, and while she didn’t innovate with Aerial, she didn’t disappoint either. Who else could put a washing machine into a paean to a hypnotic love song, or give Rolf Harris an unembarrassing cameo? Proving she’s still up there among the best living songwriters, Bush delivered something very rare along the way: an example of domestic bliss made solid and available for £12.99.

Keren Ann – Nolita
She’s big in France and Belgium but don’t let that put you off. Another singer-songwriter, this one with her roots in jazz, Ann’s Nolita is a languid pleasure: half in English, half in French, but 100% listenable.

Ladytron – The Witching Hour
After two albums that failed to quite deliver on the hype, electroclash’s poster children made good with their third album. Eschewing the electro-Puritan sound that made their name in fashion magazines, the band emerges from the freezer with a surprisingly touching album that occasionally verges on the shoegazey.

Martha Wainwright – Martha Wainwright

It’s taken her a while to step out of her brother’s rank of backing singers, but younger Wainwright Martha has delivered a bruised, country-folk tinged debut which shows great promise. It’s selling fairly well for something put out on a label so small it’s practically microscopic too.

So there we go. A few things to buy in the sales. Now go on, be off with you. Shoo! Have yourselves a lovely New Year.

Monday, November 21, 2005


1) My mother once: tried to tell me and my brothers off while wearing a mud mask. It didn’t do much for her parental authority.

2) Never in my life: Have I played ‘Pooh sticks’. Some things are just too twee, and I always preferred Paddington Bear anyway.

3) When I was five: my favourite hobby was intimidating my Witch of a teacher.

4) High School was/is: A living Hell – except hell is warm and the people are interesting.

5) I will never forget: * Choir * “Where I’m coming from”. Sorry, the Take That boxset’s bringing in all back.

6) I once met: Sir Ian McKellan while pissed and only *just* resisted the temptation to recount the funny story about the ex-boyfriend we share.

7) There's this person I know who: aspires to the condition of Jewish motherhood. He has the wrong plumbing for it, but would look great in an Orthodox wig.

8) Once, at a bar: Is how most of my anecdotes begin.

9) By noon I'm usually: Embroiled in a guerilla war over washing up with our office manager.

10) Last night I: made scones, soda bread, roasted a chicken and made soup from the stock. My middle name’s only two letters away from Nigella too.

11) If I only had: that recipe again. Knew I should never have left that cake out in the rain…

12) Next time I go to church/temple: I’ll burst into flames.

13) Terri Schiavo: Is??

14) I like: booze, books and boys, in no particular order.

15) When I turn my head left, I see: Someone in the early stages of a nervous breakdown, but that’s offices for you.

16) When I turn my head right, I see: our office manager breathing fire. She and evening primrose oil are as strangers.

17) You know I'm lying when: my nose gets even bigger. Oy vey!

18) In grade school: I was an obnoxious know-it-all twat. Not much has changed.

19) If I was a character written by Shakespeare: I’d use lots of long words, and have most of my lines cut in modern productions.

20) By this time next year I: will be weeping at the inevitable break-up of Girls Aloud – and possibly playing mournfully with my Nicola doll.

21) A better name for me would be: Louis Theroux – but that’s another story.

22) I have a hard time understanding: My ex, which is a very LONG story.

23) If I ever go back to school I'll: Still be crap at football, but be fabulous with it.

24) You know I like you if: My eyes don’t glaze over 5 minutes into our debut conversation.

25) If I won an award, the first person I'd thank would be: Cher, for being an inspiration to us all.

26) I hope that: Rachel Stevens is sent to Hollyoaks rather than Doctor Who. She’d be more Adric than Elizabath-Jane.

27) Take my advice: and neither the blue nor the red pill. The Matrix was shit.

28) My ideal breakfast is: soya-yoghurt-based – the breakfast of lesbians.

29) A song I love, but do not have is: Mariah Carey’s infamous ‘Laryngitis Sessions’. Oh, the blissful, blissful silence.

30) If you visit my hometown, I suggest: You review your decision to own sportswear.

31) Tulips, character flaws, microchips & track stars: Tulips to brighten up a room; character flaws cause I have more of them than a dodgy Ming vase; microchips bring us MP3 players and hence the chance to blot out awful people on public transport; track stars for upper body definition and endurance, of course.

32) Why won't anyone: Put us out of Linda Barker’s misery with a bag of upholstery nails?

33) If you spend the night at my house: You may get a night of passion, but you might also get a night of Radio 4.

34) I'd stop my wedding: if the bridesmaids refused to wear the Ugly Sister costumes I have in mind.

35) The world could do without: Twiggy, and possibly Lulu.

36) I'd rather lick the belly of a roach than: Work in a call-centre again.

37) My favorite is: black kittens with big ears and bushy tails. Or, failing that, Ben Cohen giftwrapped in a pair of festive boxer shorts. (Hint hint Father Christmas).

38) Paper clips are more useful than: An evening spent at home watching ITV1.

39) And by the way: That top with those arms? I don’t think so.

40) The last time I was drunk: Was at a professional awards do. I was spotted copping off with another ‘Gentleman who has opinions on soft furnishing’ in the loos by a client. Naturally I have no memory of this.

41) My grandmother always: Was the finest tragic actress never to have graced the British stage. Her Lady Macbeth would have been amazing – shame she was such a horrible woman.

Monday, October 24, 2005

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Spotted in Euston station last night:

Kate Ford (Tracey Barlow) and a drunken shag from the Orange Catalogue - in the space of one minute.

Back soon x

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Breaking news: Bible not true shocker!

Now we’re not big fans of organised religion here at Tough Love Towers. In fact, if Christians ever tell us “But Jesus died for your sins!” we have to fight the urge to reply with “And did he ask permission? No”. Hell it is then, but preferably business class.

Mind you, a Catholic education does have its uses (they tried to make us do GCSE guilt but we failed the oral). A working knowledge of the Bible works wonders when faced with ill-informed doorstep evangelists. Also, when a Jehovah’s Witness offers you a copy of The Watchtower, take it. It’s the funniest read this side of The Onion.

Anyway, it looks like The Catholic Church has finally done something worthwhile. They’re on a really aggressive PR push after a horrendous past few years – Step AWAY from the altar boy, right now, etc – and this is what they’ve come up with…

(From The Times – click here for the full story)

“The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible.

“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture.”

Well, a big wooo for Cardinal Cormac Murphy ’Send the kiddy-fiddler-to-another-parish-no-one’ll-notice’ O’Connor. As far as blows against the corrosive influence of the religious right go, it’s a weak one, but at least it’s a step in the right condition. Now see if you can do something about that Emmanual College in Gateshead (a very well respected school in the North East) – that mad place where they put creationism on the science syllabus.

And just because we can’t let an opportunity to blaspheme pass us by…

This is one of the Bible passages British bishops would have us take literally:-

Exodus iii, 14
God reveals himself to Moses as: “I am who I am.”

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005


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One bubbly yet down-to-earth Northern barmaid. Cunningly replaced (in cartoon TV series manner) by an evil doppelganger with permanent eyebags, agoraphobia and unacceptable taste in nightwear.

Seriously, Les Producers de Corrie, what have you done? As the lot of you are card-carrying homosexuals don’t you love strong women? Don’t you want to see them triumphing against adversity and feckless Northern men in leopardskin? You know the drill, ever with a cocktail in their hands and a cheap son in their hearts?

So what’s up with Shelley? Not so much Elsie Tanner as Lisa from East-“We Hate Women”-Enders. Yes, we like a joke (and more excuses to see Charlie with his manly chest out would be gratefully accepted – can’t Jack’s pigeons steal his collection of tight white t-shirts or something?). But this is beyond one.

We want Old Shelley back. Remember her? She used to say things like this: -

In the back parlour in the Rover’s. Fred, Kieran and Shelley. Fred’s in butcher’s mufti, Kieran in a brickie’s Saturday night shirt, Shelley in some asymmetric top that makes her look like a bag of suet with an elastic band round the middle.

Fred (To Kieran, defending his right to wed a Thai bride): You’ve been around the world, and dallied with ladies from every Continent. Why can’t I have my taste of the Orient?

Shelley: Why can’t you be happy with sweet and sour pork like the rest of us round here?

See, that’s what we want back. Sweet and sour pork Shelley. Not joyless All-bran Shelley with added pain, misery and madwomen in the attic.

So come on, get Bev to fuck Charlie to death in a bizarre accident or something and send the actor over to our house for re-education.

And while you’re at it, enough with turning poor Clur into Deirdre already. Send her to Specsavers. Maybe she’ll see sense and realise Ashley looks more like the tall one from Cannon and Ball with each passing day.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Somewhere over the Rainbow Flag


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Have just been stolen from a Museum in America this week. The police are looking for the thieves.

It's probably safe to say they've narrowed their search to people with a lot of Kylie and Madonna records in their collections.

In fact, if it came to an identity parade, perhaps it would be easiest to throw a ball at the assembled line-up and shout "Catch!"

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Even More Slang!

Here are the latest terms making us titter into our vodka and Horlicks over in Tough Love Towers

H&M – No, not the purveyor of cheap tight t-shirts beloved by The Gays. A H&M is a (H)igh (M)aintenance homosexual. You know the type. You go on two dates with them and they’re wedding ring shopping in their lunch hour at Elizabeth Duke. And God forbid you should forget to reply to a text message instantly.

JIN – This isn’t a misspelling of Mother (Mary’s) ruin, gin either. Nor does it refer to an exotic fire spirit of Arabic pre-Islamic mythology. It’s actually a cunning anagram used to describe the pulling criteria of indie-pulling gays like ourselves.

You see, there is such a thing as TOO indie. This, again, is easy to spot. TOO indie types spend a little bit too much of their time thinking about Sleater Kinney B-sides for their own good. They can also look a bit – well – extreme and/or have disappointing stomachs or self-mutilation issues.

Like Goldilocks snaffling the Three Bears’ (snigger) porridge, you need to find a balance. Hence JIN, which stands for


Dougie McFly is, for example, just indie enough, despite really being a pop kid. Yum.

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Right, time to crawl back under that stone where we belong…

From the sublime to the ridiculous

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Kate Bush has announced a new single, King Of The Mountain, and a double album, Aerial, with a release date of 2nd November.

This is Kate’s first album since The Red Shoes which was donkey’s years ago now. How unreasonably excited are we at this? La Bush ranks highly in our mental Top Ten Divas list, and you really don’t want to see the dance/flail we end up doing to Wuthering Heights when it gets played at discos.

We’ve heard a number of unfounded rumours about this album. Apparently: -

1. It’s two separate albums, one of which was recorded ages ago and then shelved.

2. A few years ago Kate asked her record company round to see “what she’d been working on”. They promptly creamed their Diesels (they’re like that in the music biz, dontcha know) and rushed round en-masse for a look. Kate then blithely led them to her kitchen and plonked a tray of cakes down on the table. “This,” she said, “was what she’d been working on”.

3. It’s a double concept album based on the aftermath of an England laid to waste by an alien invasion.

All three rumours point to the enduring aceness of Kate, but they also raise the thorny issue of quality control. Albums that have taken *this* long to produce have a habit of raising expectations only to dash them. We only hope that Kate hasn’t lost the ability to make concept-driven music that works. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t love a cross between the second half of The Hounds Of Love and War Of The Worlds?

We also heard a high-larious rumour about Kate smoking and eating like a trooper when she’s in the studio. Given this album’s lengthy gestation period, it’s only to be hoped she’s not 21 stone and sounding like Barry White.

And now for the ridiculous….

CSI New York the other night (we know, we know) was about amputee fetishists. Ew. Have the writers been reduced to surfing esoteric porn sites for new ways to kill people off?

This is without going into the pee drinking for youthful looks episode we talked about a few weeks back. Some people....